By Kevin Kelley
William Wagner, the newly appointed interim superintendent of the Fairview Park City Schools, pledged to “cure the fracture” caused by the botched selection of Geoffrey Andrews as permanent superintendent and move the district beyond the controversy.
The embattled school board named Wagner, the former principal of Lakewood High School, as its interim superintendent at a special meeting Thursday. His one-year contract, which goes into effect Friday, sets his salary at $123,000.
While the community members who attended the meeting continued to express their frustration to school board members about the Andrews affair, they seemed pleased with the hiring of Wagner, applauding him warmly the two times he spoke publicly. Residents also individually welcomed him at the end of the meeting.
“You will see me in the community,” Wagner told residents.
Wagner, a Lakewood resident, also indicated an interest in the post permanently, saying he hoped the community would be “terribly thrilled” with him at the end of his 12-month contract.
Wagner was principal at Lakewood High School from July 2003 to July 2013 before serving as the Lakewood district’s director of human resources for the past 12 months.
In 2012, Wagner was named Ohio high school principal of the year by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators.
During Wagner’s tenure as principal, Lakewood High School received two awards from U.S. News & World Report – the Bronze Award in 2009 and the Silver in 2013 – for Best High Schools in America. Lakewood High also received an Excellent rating on the Ohio Department of Education report card seven of Wagner’s eight last years as principal.
Lakewood school officials also credited Wagner with obtaining roughly $1 million in federal and state grants, including a $250,000 federal grant to create model 21st-century classrooms that integrate technology.
Wagner received a bachelor’s of education degree in chemistry and general science from Ohio University in 1988, a master’s degree in educational administration from Ashland University in 1997 and a doctorate in educational leadership, also from Ashland, in 2005. He is a past president of the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators’ executive board and has served as the state coordinator for the National Association of Secondary School Administrators. Wagner is also on the board of directors of the Beck Center for the Arts.
Wagner drew media attention in December 2010 when, as principal, he refused to allow an injured female student permission wear sweatpants to school. According to Lakewood Patch, the student had a doctor’s letter stating she needed to wear loose-fitting clothing near her back, which she had injured in a fall.
But Wagner told West Life that Fairview Park students should not be worried he’s obsessed about the dress codes. Of the 2010 episode, Wagner said he wished he had been in a position to move the controversy, which he said eventually faded away, in another direction.
Wagner said his first order of business will be to “get to know people and hep them get to know me.”
Aware of the Andrews affair and public criticism of the school board, Andrews told West Life he knows a big part of his job initially will require him to be a healer. After hearing several attendees express their anger over the situation, Wagner said he understood the community’s frustration.
“We will move through this,” he said.
Wagner was one of five educators the school board interviewed for the interim superintendent post. Terry Krivak, who recently served as interim superintendent in North Olmsted, and Mark Gleichauf, deputy superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, were interviewed, as were the two Fairview Park district employees who hold superintendent certificates – Fairview High School Principal Brady Sheets and the Early Education Center Principal and Director of Pupil Services Connie Obrycki.
Wagner submitted the most impressive portfolio, a professionally printed booklet demonstrating how his experience and accomplishments match the Ohio Department of Education’s five standards for superintendents.